Elizabeth Freeman, first known as Mum Bett or Mumbet, was born around 1742 to African parents who were enslaved by Pieter Hogeboom in Claverack, New York. Hogeboom’s daughter Hannah married Col. John Ashley of Sheffield, Massachusetts, and Bett, most likely inherited by Hannah in 1758, moved to their household.
The story of her leaving the Ashley household varies. They state that Hannah, in an angry fit, tried to hit Bett’s younger sister Lizzie with a heated kitchen shovel. Bett, stood in the way and was hit instead, causing a deep wound. Bett left, and refused to come back. When Col. Ashley asked the law to bring back his “property,” Bett contacted lawyer Theodore Sedgwick. Stories recount that when Sedgwick inquired as to how she got the idea that she deserved to be free, she said “By keepin’ still and mindin’ things.” Continue reading Mum Bett and the Freedom Suit (Elizabeth Freeman)
Sarah was born on 6 June 1826 in Salem, Massachusetts, the second youngest child of the ten offspring of John and Nancy Remond. Salem was 14 miles from Boston and Sarah says that it contained “about 25,000 inhabitants, who are characterised by general intelligence, industry and enterprise and few towns in the States can boats of more wealth and refinement than Salem.” Continue reading Sarah Parker Remond
Phillis Wheatley was a poet and the first African American woman to have her work published.
Phillis Wheatley, as her name became, was born in West Africa (probably Senegal). Her African birth name is unknown to us now, because when she was only 7 years old she was kidnapped and shipped to America to be sold as a slave. The ship she sailed on was called The Phillis, from which she got her new name. The family she was sold to were the Wheatleys.
The Wheatley’s daughter taught Phillis to read and write, which was quite unusual for a slave. She was a quick learner; by the time she was 9 years old she had mastered English, by the time she was 12 she could handle Greek and Latin too! The Wheatley family encouraged her learning and she began to read all the books she could lay her hands on.
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